in 'The Lady of the Blue Beads' (1908)
in 'The Little Fairy Sister' (1923)
This May Gibbs poster was for the first Infant Welfare campaign by the NSW Health Department (before 1920 I think). Perhaps of much greater significance is the symbolism of juxtaposing an imported traditional figure (stork) with the local kookaburra. It speaks volumes both in terms of a generation of illustrators gaining confidence with adopting a new local visual language and, even if unintentional, I think the picture offers a revealing insight into the national psyche that continues to resonate today.
Australia's physical isolation and relative young age as a nation, as well as its modest population size has always engendered a certain lack of confidence in our competing - one way or another - in the wider world. It's strange to even think about it, let alone admit it in public, but it's absolutely true. We feel slightly intimidated, a little unsure of where we fit in and desirous of being told we are ok. Don't get me wrong, this national inferiority complex¶ has a lot of benefits too, particularly in the way our arts industry has evolved; it has inspired an amazingly unique film industry for one and possibly accounts for our industrial-strength obsession with sport. There are sociological Honors projects buried in that there image, I'm sure. Or maybe *I* am seeing too much.
¶ That description comes with the caveat that it is a deep background, almost unconscious resonance, and is receding, ever so slightly, as time goes by.
(the cat featured in a lot of his illustration work)
"The Lone Hand began as an ambitious project, an all-Australian magazine of broad scope and high quality, by the standards of the time. Later in the war years, it declined in value and prestige, and went through changes in policy in the attempt to regain its leading position. It published an amount of early science fiction."
in 'The White Butterfly and other Fairy Tales' (1921).
by Pixie O'Harris in 'Pearl Pinkie and the Sea Greenie' (1935)
in 'Pearl Pinkie and the Sea Greenie' (1935)
Stylistically very similar to May Gibbs from whom O'Harris inherited the mantle of leading children's book illustrator. They are probably the two most famous artists arising out of those early decades of the 20th century but O'Harris' career spanned more than sixty years (she ceased illustrating in the 1980s).
These pictures were scanned a while back from a couple of secondary compilation books on loan, but I'm afraid I've lost the book titles.
The first four decades of the 20th century were the 'golden age' of Australian book illustration, particularly in the fantasy - [a word applied loosely to some of the above examples]- genre. The above array is nowhere near comprehensive and I've intentionally left out Dorothy Wall, for instance, who will turn up in a dedicated post somewhere along the line in the future. Even if you didn't own works by the most famous of the Australian fantasy illustrators (I didn't...I don't think), many of their characters were - are - an inescapable part of the visual patchwork in the background, growing up here. Not too shabby really.